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Lead researcher Professor John McNeil, of Monash University, Australia, said the study proves many older people may be taking the medicine "unnecessarily".

"These findings will help inform prescribing doctors, who have always been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients who do not have a clear medical reason for doing so".

"We found there was no evidence that aspirin did healthy people any good in terms of living longer, remaining free of disability for longer, or preventing cardiovascular disease", he said. Half of the participants took a 100-milligram tablet of aspirin a day while the other half took a placebo.

But a large, new, worldwide study finds that, even at low doses, long-term use of aspirin may be harmful - without providing benefit - for older people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke.

Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, former president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the use of low-dose aspirin for healthy elderly people was controversial. One cardiologist not involved with the study notes that in the time since the original research on aspirin was done, patients can now take other medications to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and suggests it's time to "phase out" the broad use of preventative daily aspirin. Another negative observation was the increased risk of cancer-related death in those who were given aspirin every day. "What we've demonstrated is that there really is no significant benefit of being on a low dose daily aspirin if you're healthy and 70 and older, and that the risk of bleeding outweigh the benefits".

The study was coordinated at 34 sites in the US and 16 in Australia.

He said that the question of whether or not to prescribe aspirin to the healthy elderly is faced regularly by a typical GP.

"A lot of people read, 'Well, aspirin is good for people who have heart problems".

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"It has been obvious since the 1990s that there was a need for a trial of aspirin for primary prevention in people age 70 and over".

McNeil advices patients to follow their doctor's advice on aspirin, adding that the findings did not apply to those with existing conditions such as a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, where aspirin is recommended as a valuable preventive drug.

Even worse, a third study on the topic found that those who used aspirin each day had a "higher all-cause mortality" among seemingly healthy older people than those who did not take aspirin.

"I've spent the last five, six years trying to get all my seniors to stop taking aspirin" based on the clear risks and unproven benefit, he told Reuters Health by phone. They noted that despite this habit, life was not prolonged for these individuals and also the risk of getting a heart attack or a stroke for the first time was not reduced. ASPREE has provided this answer.

Of those taking the medicine, 5.9% died during the study compared to 5.2% of the placebo group.

They found that the rates for major cardiovascular events, which including coronary heart disease, nonfatal heart attacks, and fatal and nonfatal ischemic stroke, were similar in both groups.

The researchers are continuing to follow the health of the participants to determine whether beneficial effects of aspirin, such as cancer prevention, emerge sometime after taking the drug.